6 effective ways to support and strengthen your immune system

immune cells and infection

Right now our immune systems seem to be under threat, as never before. One thing is clear that we need a strong immune system to deal with the pandemic.

You will find lots of suggestions on the web about how to do this, but here are six that are based on solid scientific evidence. Some of them may need to be adapted at this time to take into account the movement restrictions.

Strengthening your immune system with soluble fibre

A University of Illinois study shows the benefits of soluble fibre. Insoluble fibre is found in wholemeal bread and similar foods and is important for the regularity of our digestive system.

Soluble fibre is found in various common foods. The study shows that it reduces the inflammation associated with obesity-related diseases and strengthens the immune system.

One of the researchers, Professor Gregory Freund, says:

“Soluble fiber changes the personality of immune cells – they go from being pro-inflammatory, angry cells to anti-inflammatory, healing cells that help us recover faster from infection.”

This sounds like exactly what we all need right now. Diabetes UK says that good sources of soluble fibre include:

  •     Oats
  •     Fruits and berries, particularly apples, strawberries, and blueberries
  •     Nuts and seeds
  •     Beans, pulses, and lentils
  •     Vegetables

Looks like  a plant-based diet to me!

Choir singing boosts immune system

Research by Daisy Fancourt and colleagues found that singing in a choir boosts immune system activity.

They found that singing in a choir for just one-hour boosts the levels of immune proteins in people affected by cancer. It also reduces stress and improves mood, which in turn could have a positive impact on overall health.

While this research was done on cancer patients, I can imagine it would be true for the rest of us as well. You probably won’t be able to sing in a physical choir right now, but could you organise a virtual choir via Skype or Zoom?

Spending time in nature boosts immune system

Simply spending time in nature has been shown by numerous research articles to provide protection against a startling range of diseases, including depression, diabetes, obesity, ADHD, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and many more.

University of Illinois environment and behavior researcher Ming Kuo believes an important part of the reason for this is that spending time in nature strengthens the immune system. She said:

“When we feel completely safe, our body devotes resources to long-term investments that lead to good health outcomes – growing, reproducing, and building the immune system. When we are in nature in that relaxed state, and our body knows that it’s safe, it invests resources toward the immune system.”

It may well be difficult to spend a lot of time in nature right now, as many countries are experiencing extensive movement restrictions. Research has shown that even looking at the sky through a window helps sick people get well. So, if you are stuck in a small apartment, deliberately take time to look at the sky.

Check out this simple way to reduce your stress levels even if you can’t have the healing benefits of nature.

Lack of sleep affects your immune system

We all know how we feel if we aren’t getting enough sleep. Researchers have shown that it affects our immune system too. A study by Luciana Besedovsky and colleagues shed light on how the immune system replenishes itself during sleep.

T cells are a type of white blood cells and are the foundation of the human body’s immune system. Large quantities of T cells are present in the bloodstream and are ready to attack viruses and other pathogens that invade the body.

Even during a deep resting phase, the body is able to release T cells, growth hormones, and epinephrine back into circulation to fight pathogens when needed.

Take a beta glucan supplement for the immune system

Beta glucan is among the best supplements for fighting colds or priming your immune system, and you have probably never heard of it. It’s found in nutritional yeast, which adds a wonderfully cheesy flavour to sauces etc. You’ll find it in your health store. Or take a supplement.

A study from the University of North Texas looked at how beta glucan can help athletes who undertake major endurance sports such as marathon running. The researchers concluded that beta glucan may reduce upper respiratory tract infections and improve mucosal immunity (salivary IgA) post-exercise.

It seems like it works particularly well when you are under mental or physical stress.

Lead a healthy lifestyle

The bottom line from all research is simple – we need to embrace a healthy lifestyle for our immune system to be able to function optimally.

The Harvard Medical School website says:

“our first line of defense is to choose a healthy lifestyle.”

They see these as healthy living strategies:

Being fit, healthy, and happy doesn’t have to be hard work, but it does need to be based on solid factual information about effective ways to improve your life.

Based on my original article first published on Sixy and Me.